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Any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement?

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    Any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement?

    Would there be any interest in a SOL-20 keyboard replacement? I recently picked up a non-working SOL-20 which is complete except for the keyboard, and the chances of picking up a keyboard at a reasonable price are pretty slim. I already have an ASCII encoder PCB, so making a new keyboard is just a matter of laying out the keys.

    I am already placing an order for keycaps that will covermost of the keys, but the SOL-20 has some less common key widths, including several 1.25x and a couple of 1.75x keys, and the keyboard has light gray, dark gray, and off-white keycap colors. The missing keys would be difficult to source from commodity suppliers, and would have to be custom-made. The SOL-20 keycap kit would add 36 keys on top of the "classic" keycap kit. I'm guessing that if I order 20, that would be in the range of $30-$40 on top of the "classic" keyset (which would be in the $40-$50 range). The keycap colors are not truly matched to the original, since the base keycap set is darker to broaden the usefulness in other systems.

    If there's not any interest, then I'll find a way to approximate the one-off keyboard with off the shelf parts.

    The keyboard is not a replica of the original. It doesn't use the same capacitive circuit or keys. But it does have exactly the same layout with the same functionality, including the 3 LEDs (UPPER CASE, SHIFT LOCK, LOCAL) and 3 outputs (RESET, BREAK, LOCAL). It uses cherry MX or Futaba MD-4PCs keys. Neither has quite the same feel as the capacitive keys, but the Futaba keys approach the travel of the keytronic switches, and do have a nice feel.

    Also, the original keyboard angles the keycaps at about 10-12 degrees. A 3D printable adapter could be made (as has been done for Apple II ALPS keys). But that's not part of the original plan.

    Dave
    http://osiweb.org
    http://osiweb.org/osiforum

    #2
    Hi Dave,
    Welcome to the SOL-20 club.
    Don't forget the OSI though

    Phil
    retro computing at: www.neoncluster.com ....is dead

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by Nama View Post
      Hi Dave,
      Welcome to the SOL-20 club.
      Don't forget the OSI though

      Phil
      Definitely will not forget OSI Lately I've been turning my attention to the fallout of the great shelf failure of 2019, and directing a little TLC to those systems before putting them back up on the (properly rebuilt) shelf.

      Dave
      http://osiweb.org
      http://osiweb.org/osiforum

      Comment


        #4
        Oh..that doesn't sound good.
        Hope you can get the Sol-20 keyboard project off the ground.
        retro computing at: www.neoncluster.com ....is dead

        Comment


          #5
          I already have the layout partly done. I will finish in the scraps of time I have for hobby stuff in the evenings. The keyboard will use the ASCII encoder from the unified retro keyboard project (https://github.com/osiweb/unified_retro_keyboard). The main issue is all the special size/color keycaps used by the SOL-20 keyboard, which will require a special order.

          Dave
          http://osiweb.org
          http://osiweb.org/osiforum

          Comment


            #6
            I think it would be really wonderful if you could make a replacement keyboard for the SOL-20. It would be a great achievement. My support 100%.

            Comment


              #7
              You might try talking to these people: https://pimpmykeyboard.com/
              Crazy old guy with a basement full of Pentium 1 laptops and parts

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by DeltaDon View Post
                You might try talking to these people: https://pimpmykeyboard.com/
                That is the retail site for Signature Plastics, which is indeed where I'm ordering the keys from. I just got a quote back for the SOL-20 add-on set for the keycaps I'm using for the "ADM-3A" style keyboard, and it's not cheap. If I order a quantity of 100 of the ADM-style kit along with quantity 20 of the SOL-20 add-on keys, the price will work out to about $120 for a full set of SOL-20 keycaps. If I order only 10 SOL-20 add-on kits, it will be closer to $170 for a SOL-20 kit, but the up-front cash outlay will be smaller, and the potential for storing a grand or more worth of unused keycaps may be smaller. That's why I want to gauge interest before placing an order.
                http://osiweb.org
                http://osiweb.org/osiforum

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by dfnr2 View Post
                  That's why I want to gauge interest before placing an order.
                  It would depend on the final keyboard you are planning to create. It is was a near exact hardware replica, with the same geometry, which would drop directly into a SOL-20, and work with the same key format and key labels, I don't think anyone would have an issue paying $200 to $300 for it or more.

                  The aim I think would be to make a near perfect replica, even if it didn't have the unique capacitive key detector. As long as they keys looked right and you could drop it in directly and the keyboard perimeter around the keys matched the original so it looked normal when the SOL-20 metalwork surrounded it. In other words, if you could turn out a keyboard that looked and worked just like the original part, that would be the attraction. If you can do that, then you could worry less about the cost, because SOL-20 enthusiasts would all want one.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    The keyboard will be an exact mechanical fit to the case, and also compatible with all the signals, but will not be capacitive. It will leverage the already existing ASCII encoder hardware and firmware.

                    Another issue is that the keycaps had a slight angle to them (10-12 degrees) level out the keycaps on a sloped keyboard mounting angle. These keycaps cannot be made with an angle. I don't think the difference is a problem in practice, but it would be nice. I think I have a solution. The good news is that the solution would require a change to the PCB's, which are cheap, so the keycaps could be used either way.

                    Dave
                    http://osiweb.org
                    http://osiweb.org/osiforum

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by dfnr2 View Post
                      The keyboard will be an exact mechanical fit to the case, and also compatible with all the signals, but will not be capacitive. It will leverage the already existing ASCII encoder hardware and firmware.

                      Another issue is that the keycaps had a slight angle to them (10-12 degrees) level out the keycaps on a sloped keyboard mounting angle. These keycaps cannot be made with an angle. I don't think the difference is a problem in practice, but it would be nice. I think I have a solution. The good news is that the solution would require a change to the PCB's, which are cheap, so the keycaps could be used either way.

                      Dave
                      Sounds great.

                      What about the Red LED's in the shift lock , upper case and local buttons, is it possible to replicate those too ?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Yes, those are in there. For those keys, the red LED window is the second shot in the double-shot molded key, so the legends have to be pad-printed. I checked the SOL-20, and they are done the same way, except instead of pad-printed, those keys seem to have the legend carved into the key, then painted black.
                        http://osiweb.org
                        http://osiweb.org/osiforum

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by dfnr2 View Post
                          Yes, those are in there. For those keys, the red LED window is the second shot in the double-shot molded key, so the legends have to be pad-printed. I checked the SOL-20, and they are done the same way, except instead of pad-printed, those keys seem to have the legend carved into the key, then painted black.
                          I really want to see photos of what you have created. When will the first prototype be ready ?

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I'm still laying out the PCB, a half hour at a time in the evenings, but should be done this week.

                            The chicken-and-egg problem is that without the keycaps, it is only possible to imagine what the keyboard will look like, and I'm trying to figure out how many sets to order. Based on the interest in the OSI keycaps, of which I had 20 sets and still have about 5-10 left over, there may be interest for 3-4 SOL keyboards, so it looks like an order of 10, even at the greater price, might be the most prudent. The keycaps take about 2-3 months to produce, once ordered.

                            If you want to see what the ADM-style keyboard looks like, I have pictures on the OSIWeb forum.

                            The alphanumeric color is a little different from the SOL. From the Signature Plastics color selection, The alphanumerics are color GD, the dark keys are GX, and the white ones are WFO:

                            gray.jpgwhite.jpg

                            The alphanumeric gray is a little darker than the SOL, but was selected to also work well with a wider variety of other machines as part of the ADM-style keyboard.

                            Dave
                            http://osiweb.org
                            http://osiweb.org/osiforum

                            Comment


                              #15
                              OK, Still a bit of work on layout, but here's what it will look like:

                              sol-kbd.jpg

                              The diode per key is for n-key rollover, which the capacitive keyboard gets for free, since a capacitive keyboard cannot have "ghosting".

                              The keys will all be the correct size. The alphanumerics will be a little darker (to leverage bulk pricing), and the dark and light keys will be very close to original.

                              The extended ADM-style keyboard looks like it will be in the $75-$100 range for a new keyboard. The SOL PCB will be about the same as the ADM-style, but the SOL keycap kit costs an extra $140-$150 if I order 10, which decreases to $90-100 if I order 20. The question is, are there more than 9 people besides me who might want a SOL-style keyboard.

                              The SOL keycap kit extends the ADM-style kit with 35 special keys:


                              Color GD:
                              1u: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
                              2u: SHIFT

                              Color GD with red LED lens on right side and pad-printed legend:
                              1.5u: "SHIFT LOCK" one word per line

                              Color GX:
                              1u CTRL (qty of 2),
                              1u: CLEAR
                              1u: LINE FEED (1 word per line)
                              1u: - (for keypad, centered in the keycap)
                              1u: + (for keypad, centered in the keycap)
                              1u: (division symbol for keypad, not /, centered in the keycap)
                              1u: . (period for keypad, centered in the keycap)
                              1u: * (for keypad, centered in keycap)
                              1.25u: up arrow
                              1.25u: down arrow
                              1.25u: right arrow
                              1.25u: left arrow
                              1.25u: HOME CURSOR (1 word per line)
                              1.25u: TAB
                              1.25u: REPEAT
                              1.5u: RETURN
                              1.75u: ESCAPE

                              Color WFO with black legend
                              1u: LOAD
                              1u BREAK
                              1.75u MODE SELECT (1 word per line)

                              Color: WFO with red translucent LED lens on right side, and pad-printed white legend.
                              1.5u: "UPPER CASE" one word per line
                              1.5u: "LOCAL"

                              BTW, I encourage anyone to double check those sizes and look for any errors.

                              Dave
                              Last edited by dfnr2; January 11, 2020, 07:29 PM.
                              http://osiweb.org
                              http://osiweb.org/osiforum

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